Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'm back

A scholar presents his work to a queen, from a late medieval French manuscript.

I have returned to blogdom after a week of wrestling with a report on my research for my dissertation advisor. He wants me to start writing and of course I feel I haven't done enough research and secondary reading -- this is why if one's advisor forgets about one, one doesn't finish one's dissertation until 2047.

This is a hard endeavor. It forces me to really confront my progress and my knowledge of the material, which in the paranoid theatre of my self-esteem is always lacking. I have the little devil on my shoulder telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about, that I can't control the mass of information (well over 1,000 charters) that I am writing about, that my Latin is poor, and that what I write when I feel most inspired is nothing more than a steaming pile of merda tauri.

The oft-feared by graduate students phenomenon known as the imposter syndrome. "When," I ask myself, "will they figure out I don't know what I'm talking about?"

I will probably never get over this. It's part of how I work. Still, I wrote up some twenty pages of whatever and will now return to my routine, reading charters and cheering for the Mets. Checking Wonkette for more bitchy and amusing political gossip. Feeling sad about Iraq. Occasionally blogging. It's nice to be back.


KcM said...

Welcome back...routine is good, even for imposters like us.

cowboyangel said...


You'll be fine. You're not an imposter. You're one of the most intelligent, creative and gifted people I know. You're an excellent writer and reasoned, perceptive thinker.

I'll grant that you don't always know you're talking about. But we can discuss The Forty-year Old Virgin and Joy Division another day. And (hopefully) those won't have any impact on your dissertation.

Plus, you know Latin obscenities. How many people outside of a Medieval History department can claim such talent? Whatever your advisor says, I think that rocks.

Great to have you back!

crystal said...

hmmm - this reply box ate my first comment, but I'll try again ...

What Guillame said :-)

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to write a dissertation. I've only done a thesis, and cheated by picking an advisor who had a crush on me - still took forever.

Glad you are back!

Liam said...

Thanks, everybody. The support is very welcome.

But anyone can swear in Latin:

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I'm so with you. I know zero about Mediaeval French and Icelandic literature, and my PhD will be finished in 2050 :)

cowboyangel said...

Mediaeval French and Icelandic literature? Really?

Does this have something to do with the Vikings?

cowboyangel said...

Degree: PH.D.
Year: 1982
Abstract: Sigurdur saga turnara is a late mediaeval Icelandic romance. . . . When the saga was first edited by Agnete Loth in volume 5 of the Late Mediaeval Icelandic Romances in 1965, no research on the romance's literary content had been attempted. . . . Sigurdur saga turnara proves to be a compendium of the most common romance motifs distilled to their essence and presented in a spare style with an overlay of satire borrowed from Old French fabliau. The author's debt to fabliau literature is evident in his adaptation of the cross motif from Du Prestre Crucifie. The story of the naked lover who escapes the wrath of his pursuers by assuming the pose of a living crucifix appears in French, German and Italian texts from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. Examination of the variants shows that the Icelandic composer borrowed the theme from its hitherto unrecognized French source. Sigurdur saga turnara is therefore one of three romances with a known fabliau source for an otherwise thoroughly "Icelandicized" motif.

Wow, I learned something new today!!!

Jeff said...


Merda tauri... That's pretty good. I just want to second what Guillaume said. Your are a great writer and a great intellect. The imposter syndrome doesn't apply to you. Just remember... a heck of a lot of people are going through life as "smokes", getting by every day on smoke and mirrors, and winging it as they go. Once we realize that, half the battle is won.

Gabriele C. said...

Cowboyangel, the way French texts found their way into Old Norse literature is endlessly fascinating. I'm going to pick up that Sigurdur saga. :)

My PhD deals with the representation of French epics:
The Karlamagnús saga 1 (including the parts KMS IX and X as well as the post-Roncesvals episodes of the Karl Magnus Chronicle) - Analysis of the text and its discourse with the French and Scandinavian literature of the 12th and 13th centuries

To add some spices, the Karlamagnús saga I not only goes back on a French original, but on something that is pretty unique in 12th century French literature - a vernacular chronicle based on epics.

Sandalstraps said...


Welcome back.

By the way, I always feel like that!

Tyler Simons said...

Leszek Kolakowski once said something like, "If you don't feel like an absolute charlatan once a day, you're not saying anything worth saying." Let your freak flag fly.

Twenty pages is a lot!

Liam said...

Thanks guys.